Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thank You, Coffee County Middle School

I had a fabulous time last night at Authors' Night at Coffee County Middle School in Manchester, TN.  The students were ebullient and full of questions about how to become a writer.  It was such an inspiration.  Thank you, Coffee County Middle School!




For more information on Kimberly Dana Author Events, please visit my website at http://kimberlydana.com/author_visits_19.html

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Help Them Do Their Best on the Test!

Standardized Testing is:

A) Stressful
B) Necessary
C) Something students can succeed on
D) All of the above

Correct Answer - D!



It's that time of year again!  Standardized testing is just around the corner, meaning the anxiety at most educational institutions is off-the-charts!  Never before has there been so much pressure to perform well, as standardized testing determines school ratings, student funding, and a child's classroom placement.  To offset test-taking anxiety, it is paramount we prepare our students with knowledge, skills, and guaranteed-to-succeed test-taking strategies.


For classroom activities and lessons that use humor and positive reinforcement for maximum buy-in, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Get Your D.E.A.R. On!!!

D.E.A.R. is an educational acronym that stands for Drop Everything and Read.  It’s much frothier than the dated S.S.R. – Silent Sustained Reading, which sounds a bit torturous to even the most avid reader.



April 12th is the official National D.E.A.R Day.  It is the birthday of the beloved author Beverly Cleary who created one of my all-time favorite childhood characters – Ramona Quimby.  On National D.E.A.R. Day, families are encouraged to read together while promoting books as an integral part of daily life.

So how will you be celebrating D.E.A.R. Day?  Fun activities to do with family, friends, or an impassioned book club include making bookmarks, reading favorite passages, and acting out scenes.  Character charades, anyone?  While April 12th is official D.E.A.R. day, every day is a great day to Drop Everything and Read!  So – drop those agonizing bills, take a break from Facebook, and get your read on!

For classroom activities and lessons corresponding to D.E.A.R., visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:


Thursday, April 2, 2015

It's National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.





Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho




April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Example:

Chocolate
Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever
Yum!


Eyes
Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words
Soul-windows


Cinquain
Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…
Voila!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to Have Fun at Lunch (The Most Important Thirty Minutes You'll Ever Have!)

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Lucy: Okay—get your hunger on because lunch is that precious half hour when you can chill and hang with the besties, not to mention fuel up for those afternoon classes.

CeCee: Or a study hall if you have an upcoming quiz or test!

Lucy: Okay, right, C.! Whatev.

Lucy and CeCee: Lunch is a social reprieve that should be savored and enjoyed. To eke out maximum benefits, adhere to the following.



L&C’s How to Munch at Lunch

The Dreaded Hot-Lunch Line

Time is precious, and negotiating your way through the swarming hot-lunch line takes some skill. The best way to buy hot lunch is to walk purposefully to the end of the line and maintain position. Beware of cutters who may have a ruse, such as acting like they forgot a fork or straw. Usually they are wormy little sixth graders, so don’t be afraid to tell them to buzz off! You may think it best to wait for the line to die down, but don’t! By that time, the food goes from grotesque to downright vomitous. (Just sayin’!)

Not all entrees induce the lunch flu, but be cautious of certain food items. Anything with a catchy name like “Fiesta Fajitas” or “Burger Bangers” should be sized up with suspicion. Also, dodge the mystery meat whenever possible. This is anything containing meat product that can’t easily be identified with the naked eye. It’s usually topped off with some sort of gravy-like sauce so as to conceal its identity. Hence, the name. Also, stay away from the pizza altogether, as it’s riddled with mystery meat droppings and altogether nast.

Where to Sit

Where to sit in the middle school cafeteria is a strategic chess move that can be executed with ease. Just face the fact that cliques are the number-one unspoken rule of the lunchroom. (If you don’t already know, a clique is a self-segregating group that hangs and eats together. They were around when your grandparents went to school, and they’ll be around when your grandchildren go to school. A few common ones throughout the ages are preppies, geeks, punks, emos, oddballs, hipsters, VIP popular kids, and wannabes.)

Now, the good news is you can click outside your clique. You just have to know which ones are flexible and which are not. For example, the trinity of Madison Heights royalty—Kandi, Kassi, and Kalli—is one grub ’n’ snub club that isn’t accepting new members. One can tell this by their guarded body language that screams “Admire—then expire!” when you walk by their reserved VIP table waaaaaay in back of the lunchroom.

On the flip side, most cliques love to meet and talk with new people, so don’t be shy! If you’re new and don’t want to eat your cheese puffs solo, case the caf for a friendly looking group or just take out a book or magazine and chill. If you look confident and comfortable with yourself, someone is bound to join in. (Quick Tip: While you’re sitting there by yourself, feign popularity by pretending to wave at random people. It works!)

The upshot is finding a crowd to chow with definitely gets easier with time. Before you know it, you will have your own little table surrounded by your best besties, eating the mystery meat du jour!

Convo Starters
Don’t know what to gab about while you grub? Try these hot topics:

Can you believe that English project?
Are Uggs really a good look?
Hottiest hotties
Makeup/breakup/shakeup of the week
“I know, right?,” “That’s so random,” “24/7,” Just sayin’,” “It’s all good,” and other phrases that should be banned
Team Edward vs. Team Jacob
The virtues of headbands
Today’s cute math substitute
Yesterday’s scary science substitute
What teachers really talk about in the lunchroom

Beware: Try to avoid food fights. Some fun seekers might try to instigate, but it’s ultra-immature and could ruin your gear.

Helpful Hint: No matter how tempting it is to food bash, always be nice to the “lunch ladies,” and never insult the food while in earshot. They’re the hardworking women who put the mystery in mystery meat and have hairnets, oversized glasses, and large moles. Always be polite, and try to learn their names (usually something like Edith or Joyce). You may just get an extra big helping of mystery meat goulash!


Dear Diary,

The ladies served up some major calamity casserole at lunch today! And the casserole’s name is Josh! I don’t care what Lucy says—that kid is nothing but trouble! It’s so her to fall for the walking jock cliché (i.e., the backward baseball hat, the menacing sports jersey, the cocky strut, and of course, the one-syllable J name). Too bad it’s J for j-e-r-k. How do I know this? Because Ms. Clark summoned me today to discuss tutoring him after school. Apparently, his grades aren’t all that, and he needs “major intervention” because he’s on a behavior permit. (She let it slip that he has a little habit of beating up nerds, and this is his third school.)

So, while I’m telling Lucy her new crush is a swirlie-giving, ear-flipping, towel-snapping bully—or worse—a potential Dark Lord with truly evil intentions (a doppelganger, perhaps?), she just smiles and gushes, not at all bothered by the fact that he’s totally cuddling up to Kandi Klass in back of the lunchroom. I don’t mean to Gandalfenize, but when will she see the truth will set her free? It’s like she’s under some charm spell from an evil wizard or something. Why can’t she just settle for Lyle Whitehurst, who’s had fuzzy feelings for her since kindergarten? Okay, maybe he’s an überdork, but at least he’s a dork with a brain!

Anyway, Lucy seemed relieved when I told her I was way too involved with the Madison Messenger to possibly tutor Josh the Jerk. She then went on and on about her horoscope and Destiny Stars’s prediction for her flourishing love life and how she and Josh are “meant to be.” That’s when I reminded Lucy that her astro-reading habit is merely a minion’s way of claiming false success without claiming failure—which she promptly ignored.

G/G—Ms. Horowitz says pop quiz in two minutes. 
CeCee

PS Help! I can’t find my magical Blistex and feel so unprotected without it. I have such very little armor as it is, and I don’t want my lips to surrender to the spell of chappiness. Fraggy pucker nuts! 








Friday, February 20, 2015

Mood and Tone: A Lesson in Author's Style

Teaching tweens the nuances of mood and tone can be a challenge.  The terms are often interchangeable i.e., misused, and in a middle schooler's mind, they are sort of formless and abstract.  Yet, mood and tone are a very powerful literary concept.  They are literally what give text its "texture."


Enter my go-to visual Mood/Tone guy:




As the little guy above illustrates, the drive-through version of tone is the author's attitude toward the subject, and mood is the feeling of the reader.

Specifically, to teach tone, I refer to the anti-phony Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye:

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
  • “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
  • “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
Holden’s tone is bitterly sarcastic and critical as he ruminates on the nature of things and the hypocrisy of people.  Salinger's tone is achieved through word choice.

Some words used to identify tone could be:
  1. Anxious
  2. Bold
  3. Confrontational
  4. Curious
  5. Dismissive
  6. Encouraging
  7. Hip
  8. Hopeful
  9. Open
  10. Overbearing
  11. Passionate
  12. Sarcastic
  13. Smarmy
  14. Suspicious
  15. Uncouth
  16. Upbeat
  17. Urbane
  18. Wisecracking
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

To teach mood, I present Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The gloomy, somber mood belies a voice and feeling of regret.  The speaker took the road less traveled, but wishes he could have traveled both.  The reader is left with the grave, somewhat melancholic fact that we only have one life to live, and choice is everything.

Some words used to identify mood could be:
  1. Alarming
  2. Brooding
  3. Buoyant
  4. Comical
  5. Confining
  6. Cool
  7. Dark
  8. Fantastical
  9. Hopeful
  10. Light
  11. Melancholy
  12. Ominous
  13. Oppressive
  14. Relaxed
  15. Sexy
  16. Spooky
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Warm

So forge ahead.  Demystify mood and tone, and teach author's style with aplomb.  Your students will catch on in no time, hopefully eager to hone their own writing style.

For more classroom activities and lessons on mood/tone and other literary concepts, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers: